by Noemi Galban
U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic three-day trip to Cuba earlier this week fell short of expectations of average Cubans, according to man-on-the-street interviews here.
Obama’s March 20-22 trip lacks substance and appears to have focused on a small group of Cubans who work in private sectors.
“Obama is undoubtedly a charismatic politician. With his affable smile and natural intelligence, he can reach the most diverse audience,” said Alicia Escalona, a retired teacher.
“But honestly we were expecting more practical announcements and outcomes,” she added.
Although the two countries have resumed diplomatic relations, many of the Cold War policies that Washington had implemented in the past 50 years continue to cripple the Cuban economy and society.
These policies include a U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, its biased immigration policies, designed to siphon off the latter’s talent, and its illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay.
The Cuban government may be imperfect, but its achievements in providing universal education and healthcare are undeniable, said Escalona.
In that sense, I think Obama’s criticism of the Cuban government is unacceptable, she added.
Many problems still need to be solved, including the U.S. withdrawal from Guantanamo Bay and repealing the Cuban Adjustment Act, an immigration law, said Odalys Gonzalez, a housewife.
The Cuban Adjustment Act gives Cubans temporary residency in the United States and the right to work almost immediately upon arrival, making thousands of Cubans leaving their country for the United States.
Gonzalez’s son is one of them. Lured by the promise of a better future, her son went to the United States, but failed to find a decent job which could enable him to buy a house there or even a plane ticket back to Havana, so they have not met each other for eight years.
“Nothing is as good as they paint it,” said Gonzalez.
Obama said the United States is a country where a mulatto, raised by a single mother, could grow up to become the president, which may describe his own childhood experiences, said Gonzalez, but for us, the anecdote seems more like a Hollywood tale than real life.
“Obama spoke of the reunion of Cuban families, divided for half a century by the promise of the ‘American dream’. But he never promised any concrete measures to solve the problem,” Gonzalez added.
“Obama spent most of his second day on an entrepreneurial conference, designed to inspire Cuban fledgling private sector. But it’s a tiny community, I felt excluded from his speech,” said Adela Martinez, a worker.
“I think the measures he’s taken to dismantle the blockade are good, but I wonder why the majority dodge working with the Cuban government,” Martinez added.
Despite its shortcomings, Obama’s visit would help boost the Cuban economy, said Manuel Rodriguez, who is self-employed.H “The journey opens a new chapter in the development of relations and fills us with enthusiasm and hope, because our economy needs a push that can make the country’s productive sectors more dynamic,” said Rodriguez.
Obama’s recognition of Washington’s failed policy towards Cuba has been a positive first step, but more needs to be done to redress the damage the United States has caused to Cuba, Rodriguez added.
Cuba has demanded the United States make reparations for Cuba’s huge loss due to the trade embargo, which is very difficult given the fact that Washington claims its corporations in Cuba had been nationalized after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Enditem